I read Nsikan James’s post celebrating our great state at 29. As expected, I couldn’t relate to his September 23rd experiences in a village primary in my native Itu, since I was born, ‘bread’, and ‘buttered’ in the township. But since Nsikan is a proper Itam
village boy, I verily believe him, and do not doubt his experiences. However, I wonder why he didn’t attend tusher primary schools in Itu, which included NNMC Staff School, Itu, and the rest. Well, that is a story for another day!
In my day, September 23rd held much happiness and promise for my young mind. Do not be mistaken, this happiness I speak of was not for a nationalistic cause. I was simply glad that in preparation for the State’s Anniversary, drums in the school band would be repaired, and once again I could find an avenue to express in unruly languages, my love for the ancient art of percussion. Weeks before the D-Day, a certain teacher, whom we shall call “Uncle X”, would identify students who in his opinion were persons of good character, which at the time, was what it took to man the drum stand. For drumming, especially drumming in QIC Nursery/Primary School Uyo, was not an activity to be left in the hands of riffraffs. He would then invite them to special practices every day after break periods, to hone their skills in the noble art of percussion.
Therefore I was happy, even if my chances of being selected into the elite band squad were slim on account of yours truly being a recurrent decimal in the “Noise Makers List”, I was glad because after the D-Day, the bands would still be new, and since Uncle X gave no hoots whatsoever about who played the drums post the D-Day, I was very sure that if I arrived school early enough on an Assembly day (which was actually every day), I would stand a good chance of seizing a tenor drum or snare. And I would play even if I was not early enough to not be the drum holder. Being the drum holder, you could still play if you disturbed the sticks holding player with statements like, “let me play nah, it’s my turn…you’ve played enough”. The cymbals were strictly for the females. Strictly. In fact, as a guy, it was an act of falling hands to be seen playing cymbals.
Another reason that the Anniversary occasioned jollity in my spirit was because it afforded me an opportunity to not go to school. On good days such as the one in examination, we would go to the stadium along Obio Imo and support those amongst us who were lucky enough to be selected by the great Uncle X for the march-past. If you could not attend, you had no worries; Madam Magaret Eshiet was ever ready to regale listeners on radio with a graphic account of the goings-on at the stadium. Those were good times. I still remember the N10 groundnut that I bought in a paper cone during one of the anniversaries; today I buy its equivalent for N100 with much abeg. It’s a brave new world… Well, back to our march-past squad. Not like they ever won first prize anyway, but we supported our own. The closest we ever came to winning was when we took “third” position, and that was because Police Children School did not participate in the march-past that year. You know, Police Children School always took first; another school in Ewet Housing took second; and one other school always occupied third position.
We were always content to buy saccharine disguised as ice cream, and hail our classmates on the field. Even when our drum major’s stick fell in the height of his display, we hailed as much as we hailed when they rightly delivered their eyes right to the Governor.
We were sure to grumble, on our way back home, about how once again we were cheated out of the prizes. A classmate or two would draw us into confidence, and inform the rest of us about a secret wink they had seen being exchanged between one of the teachers from the luckier schools, and one of the judges. On account of this discovery from our comrade(s), we would journey home, informing whoever was unfortunate to ask us our position, that we were unjustly cheated out of the prizes category.
On this great day in 2016, I am filled with nostalgia. Sitting here in Enugu, I think of the land that I have loved, and cherished. It has not been easy, but it has been an amazing journey. Under our very eyes, things have changed remarkably. Though much has been achieved; much more needs to be done. Our leaders must be sincere about making things work. We as a people must innovate, or die. Our reliance on Crude Oil must give way to other creative ways of raising revenue. We, as one people must rise up, and demand better leadership from our leaders, it is our right, and it is our duty.
Happy Anniversary, Akwa Ibom.
From a Proud Son.
P/S: To an old friend and a true daughter of the soil, Enwongo Cleopas, please accept my wishes for a happy birthday. You will do great things; I know this for a fact.